CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho insists Champions League fate owes his captain John Terry a favour as the pair attempt to guide the Blues to the competition’s final tonight.
Terry missed a spot-kick as Chelsea lost the 2008 final on penalties to Manchester United and found himself suspended when the Blues pipped Bayern to the trophy four years later.
He has the chance to engineer a third shot at the perfect ending this evening when Atletico Madrid visit Stamford Bridge for the climax of an as yet goalless semi-final tie.
Mourinho believes a victorious Champions League final appearance is not more than Terry deserves for his record in the competition, as well as his return to top form this season.
“My captain is playing at the same level he was when I left Chelsea in 2007-08, it’s as simple as that,” said Mourinho, who said Terry and newly-crowned PFA Young Player of the Year Eden Hazard were both fit to start despite recent knocks.
“I’m really happy to see a player like him six or seven years later back to the same level. I think he deserves more than the Champions League has given to him until now. He lost a few semi-finals in special circumstances, he lost the final in special circumstances, he won the final also in special circumstances because he couldn’t play -- I think the Champions League owes him something.”
Terry, 32, rejected the notion that the competition was indebted to him and offered a wry chuckle at the internet sensation sparked by his decision to don full kit to celebrate alongside his team-mates in Munich two years ago.
“Right from the start of the season our goal is to get to the Champions League final,” he said.
“We’ve done it before, we’ve had the disappointments, but when you do get your hands on the trophy, those moments live with you every day, when you’re in difficult periods personally and professionally, and spur you on. There’s nothing bigger.”
Tonight is Chelsea’s seventh Champions League semi-final in 11 seasons, and Mourinho’s fifth in consecutive campaigns -- a statistic he sought to play down as an advantage but was quick to point out when the interpreter wrongly translated it as his third in last night’s press conference.
To progress, however, they must conquer the only unbeaten side left in the competition and the surprise leaders of the Spanish top flight.
Mourinho raised eyebrows when he sent injured goalkeeper Petr Cech out to train yesterday but later confirmed he would not play, meaning Mark Schwarzer is set to deputise again, though Hazard and striker Samuel Eto’o are in contention to start.
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■ Atletico Madrid have the meanest defence in this year’s Champions League, conceding just five in 11 games. Both they (22) and Chelsea (26) have let in fewest in their domestic leagues
■ Chelsea have drawn 0-0 away in the first leg, as they did last week, in three previous Champions League ties, and ended up exiting the competition on two of those occasions
■ Atletico Madrid have played away in England nine times but only won on one of those trips, a 2-0 victory over Leicester City in the 1997-98 Uefa Cup first round